Ed Templeton’s Deformer, reviewed by Maxwell Anderson

Ed Templeton is fucking awesome… Maybe I should leave the review at that… No, let me add, his grandfather is awesome too.

Deformer is introduced by a page torn from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s A Nasty Story, with most lines blanked out by pen, leaving two passages of poignancy and inspiration, quite sweetly setting the reader up for what lies beyond – a book about a man digesting and confronting his sense of self, and the reality and value of his emotions. This is Ed’s own Nasty Story.

Soon follows autobiographical recollections about family and a suburban hometown. And laced throughout the first part of the book are words of encouragement, and enthusiasm for being the man you want to be, from Gramps, along with sometimes funny, sometimes sinister snippets from Ed’s past – for example ‘An Embarrassing Report Card’ featuring all Fs (bar one C), and a diary entry about a sudden breakdown out of nowhere. All of this lays foundation to a hectic digression, which is essentially a printed version of Ed’s life, through pictures, drawings, paintings and notations.

The design of the book is very cool. From a ‘book-­‐person’ point of view, it’s just the right size, the right materials have been used and the printing is faultless. I love the feel of the hardback paper cover, the weight of the book, the endpaper and the page bulk. The layout is scattered but organised offen using collage, akin to a Captain Beefheart record, but staying on the audio analogy, the book as a whole is like listening to Fugazi or Sonic Youth album (I can’t decide which, but I think both have been used for his skate sections). Infact, the book is by far from contradictory in tone to one of Ed’s skate parts for Toy Machine. Furthermore, what really makes all this work, is that it doesn’t seem like the thought process is objectively ‘applying’ design techniques. The flow is very natural, and this makes sense when you find in the colophon that art direction and design is by… Ed Templeton. That contributes to making this book special, it’s not a book of Ed’s work… it is Ed’s work.

I first knew of Ed Templeton as a skateboarder. I loved Toy Machine (well, they were my second favourite American company, after Foundation, of which, since Tumyeto, falls under the same distribution network). In my head up until seeing Deformer, Templeton was simply one of my favourite skateboarders who had an artistic flair (I know it was a naive thought, but I was a teen and just working things out). When I saw the book in Claire De Rouen back in 2008, initially it brought back memories of spending all my time at school watching skate videos with my two friends I skated with. I was sceptical before I opened the book. I really didn’t want it to disappoint. And fuck, it absolutely did not. Now Ed is not only one of my favourite skaters from those years of my life, he is now one of my favourite artists.

I don’t know whether Templeton would want to conjoin his legendary status in skateboarding -­‐ I’m sure he would recoil slightly on hearing that -­‐ with his career as an artist. But skateboarding is part of life. And Ed’s artwork, as demonstrated in this book, is life. Additionally you see it in his skate videos, even applying one of his characters animated in scenes and board designs. And so it would be unfair to name Templeton as ‘a skateboarder’ or ‘an artist’ or ‘a skateboarder who is also an artist’ or vice versa. Ed Templeton is an expressive explosion, manifesting in so many forms it’s unreal, from photography, painting, video, skateboarding (which is most definitely an expression of self), writing, sculpture… whichever way, he does it in his unique style… Well maybe that’s what an artist is, one who expresses one’s self in any form seen fit to purpose… Whatever he is, he’s fucking awesome. And Deformer is a monolithic testimony to that. When you own this book, you own an artwork as a whole.

Interesting links:

Drinking The Kool-­‐Aid. Another of Ed’s books self designed http://www.morelbooks.com/Ed_Templeton.html

Welcome To Hell section, one of my favourite Ed Templeton sections: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZrYYdwc-aI

Epicly Later’d – Ed Templeton (in 4 parts). An interesting documentary about Ed. http://www.vice.com/epicly-later-d/ed-templeton-part-1

Current stock of Ed Templeton photobooks at Photobookstore

Maxwell Anderson is an artist, photographer and photobook publisher. Previously working for Chris Boot Limited, he created his own publishing imprint, Bemojake, from which he publishes his own work and the work of others. Maxwell also works from time to time with the Aperture Foundation in New York.


Deformer 1 by Ed Templeton

Deformer 1 by Ed Templeton